A recipe book of one’s own

Everyone should have their own recipe book.  A resource for writing the recipes that are loved, that work; the ones that are tempting but will never be found again if you don’t write them out now; the recipes that are clipped from papers and magazines that will otherwise be thrown in the bin; the recipes that are in Aunty Gwen’s head, that she never wrote down because her memory is sharp as a tack at 82, unlike your own. 

I have a book I started at 17, which I consult still for things like Asparagus Mornay, Cob Loaf Dip, Honey Baked Chicken and that popular classic lunchbox favorite: Chocolate Weetbix Slice.  Now I am starting one each for the kids so that when they say “I particularly liked that dinner tonight, Mum, I’d love to learn how to make it myself,” (HAH!  This is merely what I’d imagine they would say if the whine factor was tuned out of their voices) then we can write it in and I have proof they do like Pea and Smoked Ham soup for the next time they try turning their noses up at it!

op shop cookbook

My mum found this recipe book at an Op Shop, and gifted it to me for my birthday.  Handwritten index

 It is rather wonderful, and for people like myself (and, I imagine, Gillian at Food History) a really romantic find as it is a window into a lady with beautiful copperplate writing and her life and interests.

stale cake The recipes are all usable, with the ability to convert old fashioned weight measures. They show the economy of the times.

1950\'s? Filled chock-a-block with cuttings of popular magazine and newspaper recipes, and the recipes from the backs of flour bags and the like.

 op shop cooking A bonus for me is that all the cuttings appear to be from Australian media…and the artwork – love that vintage artwork.  And the ads :


Don’t fail to try “Agee” Brand Garfish

packed in the latest hygenic glass containers.  It’s delicious.

Agee Meat Preserving Co., Sydney

Mmmmm love that garfish, hygenically packed in glass??

best old recipes

 But the best thing is the notes she has added, like: best made before lunch and heated for dinner, from Aunty Leah and From Betty at CWA morning tea and Uncle Barry loves this. I also love the recipes she hand wrote in or the ones xeroxed with the purple ink.  Remember?  It still has that funny vinegary smell too.

  My personal recipe book wouldn’t hold up to leaving my house, hence my need to recreate it three times (I am a madwoman) for the children, let alone change hands as this one appears to have done and wait in an opshop unil it came to me 30 – 40 years down the track.  But I’d be lost without it.  And I have a small tinge of sadness at wondering what happened to this woman and why her family doesn’t have this book.  Cooking and family is so intertwined for me, that I feel the need to adopt this lady as an Aunty, and so incorporate some of her recipes as ‘family ones’.  I’m thinking “Cocoanut (sp.) Flake Crisps” or maybe “Wine Finger Biscuits” hmmmm intriguing.  But here’s a beaut that uses standard pantry staples and the fibre that we all grow to need if not love: “Apricot Betty”.

Apricot Betty


2 cups dried apricots
1 lemon
1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon dried cinnamon powder
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup all-bran
1 1/2 cups white breadcrumbs


Wash and soak apricots in cold water overnight.  Drain and stew fruit in 3/4 cup of the liquid for five minutes, then drain.  Mix breadcrumbs with melted butter, place a layer in buttered piedish, and add a layer of drained apricots.  Sprinkle wih sugar and spices and a litle grated lemon rind, repeating layers to fill the dish.  Add strained lemon juice and syrup from apricots, cover with bran, dot with butter, and bake in moderately hot oven for about 30 minutes.  Serve hot or cold with custard or cream.

Tell me if you try it, so we can compare notes, otherwise how will we know if it worked or not?

14 thoughts on “A recipe book of one’s own

  1. Pingback: A recipe book of one’s own at All 4 One

  2. Ah, yes, rhubarbwhine your dinner party extravaganza is quite the familiar one – I made Beef Stroganoff with the chewiest leather boot of beef that could ever be found on the East Coast of Australia!

    James, it’s posts like yours that make me so envious of your different season/timezone…can’t wait to hear though because it sounds cheap, sweet AND healthy! Score!

  3. It does sound good, and I’ve got all the ingredients (especially if I replace the breadcrumbs with the old croutons) except the apricots. “Breadcrumb brown betty”: another winner?

  4. If I asked you really, really nicely, would you write a guest post for my readers, telling them all about the book (incuding dates, if you can manage them) and maybe giving a couple of the recipes which have more interesting annotations? I’ve blogged on several books like this in the past, you see, and I think everyone would enjoy hearing about one more.

  5. Lavenderbay – being that I am a serious carbohdrate addict, that just sounds yummy to me…maybe you could substitute jam for the apricots. I like jam.

    Gillian, I’d love to write a guest post for you and rave on. About my book, of course. Email me and let me know the details.

  6. Hi Alyson,

    I’ve popped over from lavenderbay’s blog. That is an incredible find. I do the odd bit of opshopping and I think a book like that is a bit of a holy grail item. What a fantastic present and a piece of Australian history. It is precious. Not sure if I can go the bran though although it is a good way to sneak some more into the diet.

  7. Hi livingisdetail, you should have seen the looks from other family members when I opened it – some people don’t at all understand the value of other peoples “old stuff”. I, on the other hand, was thrilled. I reckon once the bran has been baked it would cease to be serious, health-giving brekkie stuff and just be crunchy; definitely worth the sneak 🙂

  8. Pingback: Who’s Betty And Why Is She Made Of Apricots? « Dennis’s Diary of Destruction

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